When I was a boy, my parents wanted me to be able to share their enjoyment of all life’s activities and opportunities. One of these was bushwalking. It would allow me to venture into the country air and appreciate the beauty of this county.
Clearly, I was unable to walk through the land as others could, so how was this to be achieved? At home, I had a favourite pine chair, and it was sacrificed to the cause, being fitted with long, wooden handles for pulling, and a pair of bicycle wheels taken from who-knows-where. Lo and behold, the chair had become a rickshaw, and my experience of the great outdoors had begun.
Beholding the landscape and its many surprises did not quickly become a pastime I was eager for, and in often the prospect of being bumped and buffeted along was not so appealing. The wooden contraption was prone to twisting, its frame rather susceptible to breaking, sometimes sending its occupant flying to the dust. Once, on a long walk, I remember sinking lower and lower in the saddle, as the beloved wooden seat had snapped and the rickshaw seemed to have wheeled its last.
Right then, group of retired and interested technical folk,calling themselves Technical Aid to the Disabled (TAD) were forming and looking for new projects. A new, improved rickshaw seemed ideal. Two men, Derek Wrigley and Richard Saberton arrived for discusions as to what was required. It must be sturdy, light, easy to assemble, portable in a station wagon (estate) and good-looking, of course.
A super new aluminium version was soon born and ready for testing, with wheels taken from identical BMX bike frames, a handle in a single piece, with the length adjustable, and a hinged, folding seat. All could be disassembled and fit into the car.
We went everywhere, from Northern New South Wales to the Beach and even, I seem to recall, the outback. A huge success. The local Canberra Times wrote an article with a photo of my mother and I in the front yard.
Now this success obviously took TAD, which was just finding its feet, by surprise, and it did not at this stage think that their designs would need copyright. Legend has it that this lack of forethought led to this:
My rickshaw had been taken and adapted by person or persons unknown, into a device now common around the streets here and, I hope, many other places too. To see mothers cycling by with bubs either enjoying the ride, or even sound asleep oblivious to the view, or the traffic, and maybe hardly aware of motion at all gives me a great pleasure. I love to know that the bumps, bruises incurred, the apprehension felt have had an effect that no-one could have anticipated. I share also in the happiness of kids as they know motion, and am satisfied that mums have the convenience of riding with their beloved off-spring. I chose “Royal Maroon” as the colour for the original metal rickshaw, but the abundance of florescent colours these trailer now come in is fantastic! Just as the thought of ending a life because of the prospect of some future suffering or other is depressing, it gladdens my heart to know that life embraced to the full, for its own sake can also lead to positive, significant, widespread change which we can not anticipate. No, we ought n’t to live life solely for the hope of benefiting others, but neither can life be “shut down” or disposed of on the basis that it helps no-one.
Groups like TAD help us to overcome the often real, but frustrating need to “re-invent the wheel”, that is, to start over and over again at discovering methods or inventions that let us do the ordinary tasks of life. I hope that ideas and so on are more easily and effectively communicated since I was a boy. Our needs and desires cry out for fulfilment as do anyone else’s, but require more Lateral thinking, inventiveness and problem solving for success. So these are all talents that we are especially well-equipped to contribute to society, which must encourage us, not deny us the opportunity to give.